Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Giving him wings

On Friday I introduced my son to one of the most sacred aspects of his heritage: I took him flying.

Graham has flown before: he has crossed the Atlantic and visited Ireland (also part of his heritage). But last weekend I bundled him and Rob into a four-person float plane and headed, literally, into the sunset. His eyes widened as we soared over the trees and I felt a rush of pride at introducing him to my passion and that of my father before me.

I did not grow up wealthy or privileged as some people assume upon hearing that my father owns a plane. I come from a hardscrabble, working-class background. One of my earliest memories is chasing cows off a dirt runway in a farmer’s field while my father started his old plane by winding its propeller by hand. I remember my dad's bush pilot friends sitting at our kitchen table, sketching plans for the flying machines they would build and telling thrilling tales about adventures in Canada’s wilderness.

I have been a licensed pilot for almost 10 years and have flown float planes (way more complicated than wheels!) for almost as long. I flew when I was eight and a half months pregnant (just a few circuits around the lake – it’s safer than driving - don’t e-mail me!) and have flown countless times since Graham’s birth.

But still, I hesitated to fly with Graham before last weekend. I think I wanted to wait until he was old enough to react in a way that could be recognized and reminisced about years later, perhaps when he earns his own wings.

On Saturday Rob and I had plans to fly from my parents house to my in-laws cottage, nearly an hour’s drive (but less than a 25-minute flight) away. We did a test run with Graham on Friday evening to ensure that I wouldn’t be attempting to fly a plane and comfort a hysterical toddler on the trip the next day.

We needn’t have worried. Perched on his daddy’s lap (as per the law for a child under two) Graham seemed fascinated but otherwise nonplussed as we took flight. In fact, on our trips to the cottage and back Saturday and Sunday he fell asleep moments after takeoff.

A deeper fascination, I hope, will come later. It’s quite likely, given that flying has captivated, to varying degrees, me, my father, my brother, my uncle and several cousins. It’s a sport I love because it makes you work at it every single time. It is endlessly thrilling and yet it demands calm, precision and endless repetition to properly master.

People ask if flying is like driving, but I reply it’s more like horseback riding. A small plane is powerful and spirited: it is brought to heel with skill and confidence. There is no feeling in the world like turning a skittish plane into the wind and harnessing its power to touch the face of God.

And I am proud to say that feeling is part of my son’s heritage.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post! You were smart to wait until your son was old enough to see the wonder of it all. I took my first child up when she was 3 months old and she shall I describe it...UNIMPRESSED. Oh well!

Those photos of your son are so cute. He'll be helping you with the transponder and the radio before you know it!